Press Release
December 14, 2011

On this morning's Commission on Appointment hearing
for Sec. Dinky Soliman's appointment

Kahit noon pa, I was always very suspicious of this so-called Black and White Movement because from the title alone you can see that they attempt to divide society between people who are allegedly good and people who are allegedly evil. The problem with the Black and White Movement is this: it wants to substitute the decision of a duly-elected official--which presumably has taken into consideration the facts and data necessary--with their own judgment, but they have no basis for [giving] this power to themselves. They have never been elected. Everyone else in Congress and the President himself has to pass through the needle's eye of the people's discernment and judgment, but the Black and White Movement is simply an NGO. It has no electoral basis to speak of. So it cannot possibly insist on substituting the judgment of duly-elected officials with their own judgment. The problem is if they are going to judge who is black or who is white--in other words, who is good or who is evil--we have to inquire first what their basis is. Apparently, their basis is that they're god-fearing people, allegedly. If that is the case, then we have to ask why is it that only they know what God thinks? So we go to the question now of theology.

What is the concept of God? The person who always sides with him? Just because they introduced that claim of God in popular discourse, that does not necessarily mean that they are now as white as the driven snow. It may mean that they didn't fully understand their theology. That is why I am always opposed to anybody who speaks in black and white terms, including this Black and White Movement of which the nominee--the cabinet member we interpellated today--seems to be a basic part. Although she has formally severed her connection with this group, apparently she still believes in its basic principles, which is only they have the monopoly of truth, right and justice.

The hearing was concerned primarily in two immediate issues: the so-called PEACE bonds in which the liability of Sec. Soliman is very clear. According to her, she merely founded an organization, and that organization earned a lot of money which is borrowed by government from private banks and which has to be paid with interest; but her husband was an officer of an agency that received money from that organization, so questioning this husband-and-wife team in the disbursement of this money. That is very controversial and I am going to call on the representative of the Freedom from Debt Coalition to explain in clearer terms why it is we owe so much now. Ang laki-laki na ng utang natin dahil sa pag-uutang noong panahong iyon, I think it was 10 billion and we now being asked to repay 30 billion. We have to ask where did it go, and why is a married couple intricately involved in the processes of this flotation of bonds.

The second controversy refers to the conditional cash transfer program. I was articulating the concern of all elected officials in Congress that one person, cooperating with people from Malacañang, has the sole power to disburse such huge funds, from P21 billion to P29 billion, and ultimately I think they are projecting P59 billion. We in Congress are often subjected to criticism concerning our pork barrel funds, but pork barrel is a fully-structured institution and the COA has a very heavy presence in the disbursement of the funds. Of course, some people manage to get away from it. So if we have anomalies concerning the relatively tiny amounts of pork barrel given to congressmen and senators, how much more can a single unelected cabinet member holding in her hands the power to disburse funds beyond the wildest dreams of people who are oriented with the pork barrel.

Independently, I have raised questions of the ideology of Ms. Soliman, a representative of the Black and White Movement, and I have already said that is Manichean. The Manichean, or dualistic, philosophy--black versus white, good versus evil--has already been discredited for centuries by philosophers. Number two on the point of philosophy: her ideology on populism. As you noticed, today I wasn't able to continue because I wanted to give room for another committee. Populism is the belief that people know better than elected officials, so that any person who wants to grab power, not having been elected himself or herself, will just cite the people all the time. The problem with the populist political philosophy is that it tends to destroy the system of electoral choice by the citizenry, and substitute an elite proclaiming that they are in touch with the people. In addition, populism tends to disregard institutions and deal people-to-people. They say "We represent the people, so we are dealing with them only. We are not dealing with institutions (for example, the Presidency, the Congress, or the Supreme Court)." In the same way that Manichaeism was discredited centuries ago, populism has already been discredited by political philosophers.

These are the issues that I have been bringing up, and I foresee that I will probably need two or more for the committee hearings for the committee to reach a conclusion. But in any event, I have fairly placed my colleagues in the CA on notice that if this nominee is subject or called up in our plenary session, I will not hesitate to exercise my powers under Section 20, which is so-called the veto power. I will simply stand and invoke Section 20, I'll move for the suspension of the deliberations of this nominee. That motion is non-debatable. No one can ask me any question. It would just have to be automatically approved.

What does she need to do?

Maybe resign.

When you say resign, does that mean she is not competent for her position?

That is for the president to decide, but I am really bothered as a lawyer and political scientist by her leanings towards the Manichean philosophy and populist philosophy, because for me they are very discreditable philosophies.

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